31 California Farmworker Facts You Should Know

  1. California farm workers help produce over 350 commodities; including 1/3 of the nation’s vegetables and nearly 2/3 of the nation’s fruits and nuts. 
  2. California produces 90% of the strawberries grown in the U.S.
  3. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all farmworkers in America reside in California, or roughly 500,000 – 800,000 farmworkers.
  4. Approximately 75% of California’s farmworkers are undocumented.
  5. National Labor Relations Laws (NLRA) do not apply to farmworkers.
  6. Farmworkers are exempt from many Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) protections, including most minimum wage and hour guarantees, overtime pay, and mandatory breaks for rest and meals.
  7. Most farmworkers are excluded from federal minimum wage laws and other labor protections, including overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week.
  8. Farmworkers are not protected from retaliation when engaged in labor organizing, according to federal law.
  9. Farmworkers are not entitled to receive attorney fees under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
  10. Approximately 78% of farmworkers lack a high school diploma or equivalent.
  11. Only 21% have a diploma or GED, and just over 1% have a college degree.
  12. Around 30% of households with farmworker income fall below the poverty line, and 73% earn less than 200% of poverty (a threshold used in many public assistance programs).
  13. Monterey, Fresno, and Kern counties have the largest number of farmworkers in the state regardless of population.
  14. The counties with the lowest proportions of farmworkers are located in the Los Angeles basin, the Bay Area, and Sierras.
  15. Tulare, Madera, Monterey, and San Benito counties have the highest proportion of farmworkers.
  16. The majority of hired farmworkers in California (84%) were born in Mexico.
  17. Hispanic workers made up 96% of all farmworkers in California, with 65% of U.S.-born workers identifying as Hispanic.
  18. About 9% of California farmworkers identified as indigenous.
  19. Men made up 69% of California’s farm labor force.
  20. The average and median ages of California farmworkers is 39.
  21. About 63% of California farmworkers were married, and 58% had children.
  22. 32% of California farmworkers were living apart from their nuclear family members. Of those living alone, 73% were single workers without children, 22% were parents, and 5% had a spouse but no children.
  23. Nearly all California farmworkers (89%) reported Spanish as their primary language.
  24. Only 16% of California farmworkers reported being able to speak English “well,” while 35% said they could not speak English at all. Similarly, only 15% reported being able to read English “well,” while 47% could not read English at all.
  25. The average level of formal education completed by California farmworkers was eighth grade.
  26. About a quarter (25%) of California workers reported taking at least one adult education class in the U.S.
  27. Only 9% of California farmworkers lived in housing owned or administered by their current employer.
  28. Detached, single-family houses were the most common type of housing for California farmworkers (57%), and about a third (35%) lived in crowded dwellings.
  29. Most California farmworkers (76%) lived fewer than 25 miles from their current job, while only 7% lived where they worked.
  30. The majority of California farmworkers drove a car to work (65%), while 14% rode with a “raitero” (a shared ride service), and 2% took a labor bus, truck, or van.
  31. Employer health insurance coverage for farmworkers did not change detectably with the rollout of the ACA employer mandate, regardless of a farmworker’s documentation status or whether the worker was a direct hire versus a contractor. 


California Department of Food and Agriculture. (2012). California Agricultural Statistics Overview.

United States Census Bureau. (2012). American Community, Survey 2009-2011 Public Use Microdata.

United States Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration (2009). National Agricultural Workers Survey.

PPIC: https://www.ppic.org/publication/health-care-access-among-californias-farmworkers/


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